Blue-Green Algae Bloom Observed on Salmon Lake - ABC FOX MONTANA NEWS, WEATHER, SPORTS - KTMF/KWYB

Blue-Green Algae Bloom Observed on Salmon Lake

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Salmon Lake is home to a world of outdoor activities like swimming and fishing, boating and camping. It is also home to a toxic, blue-green algae bloom.

The Clearwater Resource Council, which is an organization that monitors the health of the Clearwater chain of lakes, said an algae bloom appeared on Salmon Lake in late October.

The CRC works closely with the Flathead Lake Biological Center and sent researchers a sample of the algae to confirm it's identity.

"It is a toxic blue-green algae called Aphanizomenon," Tom Bansak, who is a research scientist, said. "Aphanizomenon is an indicator of poor or deteriorating water quality. It tends to like high-nutrient situations that have typically been caused by humans."

Homes built along the lake, a septic system along the lake shoreline, logging, roadways-- changes in the land result in more nutrients entering the water.

"There's a bunch of lakes upstream from Salmon Lake, including Seeley Lake. Seeley Lake is one of the largest unsewered communities in Montana and is a concern for water quality degradation," Bansak mentioned. "All of the water that comes from those lakes ends up in Salmon Lake."

In a press release sent to ABC FOX Montana on Friday, Brenda Lindlief Hall, who is the executive director of the CRC, said that this is the third year in a row the blue-green algae bloom has been observed on the lake, and this bloom is far bigger than in year's past.

Bansak added, "A toxic algae bloom like this, over and over, could kill all the life in the water body."

According to Bansak, the algae bloom moves up and down with the water column, and moves with the winds. Although he believes the algae bloom has been in the water all summer, he said that explains why we haven't seen it until recently.

The blue-green algae bloom will dissipate with the season, but the big question is, will it come back?

"Is this a new normal until nutrient reduction action is taken?" Bansak questioned. "An algae bloom of this type is an indicator. It's a warning sign that something is not going well in that water body, and if we listen to it and ask, then there's a possibility of heading it off and changing things. If we don't do anything about it, then it could become a bad situation for Salmon Lake."

While most people are not getting their drinking water from Salmon Lake, Bansak said that there is a potential of a health risk. Toxic algae is known to have killed livestock and animals that drank the contaminated water on a regular basis.

For more information on blue-green algae blooms, click here.

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